9 hours of air travel from Helsinki to Tokyo felt like forever, but 9 hours from Tokyo to Kyoto went by so quickly!
Most people get the shinkansen (bullet train) or choose to fly to Kyoto in just a few hours to save some time. We decided to take a coach, hence the nine hour trip. Coach travel in Japan is not so bad though from this experience, and I would recommend it for those wanting to save some pennies on transport.
For our trip which left from Shinjuku Station, our coach seats reclined quite far back and had a hood around them to give us some extra privacy and shade from the light when desired. This was lovely for when I wanted to nap, and I did nap (a miracle as I find napping on any form of transport so difficult)! If only economy plane seats were this good! The coach was not very full and on both trips we had no one behind us either.
We had breaks every so often at good service stations (I have never seen such a pristine and inviting service station bathroom), and there were plenty of options for snacking and hot meals so there was no need to bring provisions if you didn’t want to.
This was also the day I ate my first onigiri (rice snack with filling in a triangle shape). This one had fried chicken as the filling and it was delicious. There will be a separate post on food as it was one of the best aspects of the entire trip.
All announcements on the coach were made in Japanese, English, Mandarin and Korean and the bus driver left a sign on the front of the bus to let us know when to be back during service station breaks.
Overall it was quite a pleasant experience, and I felt well rested, ready for two full-on days of sight-seeing in Kyoto!
On the return journey which left at a grueling 12:40am (night bus), be warned that there is hardly anywhere open 24 hours near Kyoto station! The nearby Starbucks seems to be where everyone lingers until closing time at 11pm. The station is open for somewhere to sit but nothing more.
When we rocked up to a service station at 6am, still half asleep, we turned round to find Mt. Fuji right in front of us! I didn’t get to do the day trip but at least I got to see her from a service station on a clear morning…
Price: a return ticket cost £68. You will have to book these when in Japan.
Worth it? Yes, if you are wanting to save some money but not if you want to maximise your time in Kyoto.
Coin-lockers: Kyoto station has plenty of coin lockers starting from 300 yen to hire for the entire day. If you have a late bus or train back, these are great to keep your luggage safe and make the most of your day.